S9 E12 | Consider it Pure Joy: How Hardship Ushers in Blessing (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E12 | Consider it Pure Joy: How Hardship Ushers in Blessing (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

Life is full of trials and tribulations, yet we’re told to consider it all joy. Why? Because God is maturing us and is growing our character. He is working all things for our good! But it doesn’t feel like it at times, especially with the added pressure homeschooling can bring. So how can we respond to trials in a way that brings blessing? How can we help our children do the same? Jeannie and Shiela share their experiences trusting God with the varied hardships they faced while homeschooling. They touch on how they helped their children navigate trials and how they kept their homeschool alive while walking through difficulties. They offer wisdom and tips to help you not only prepare for what will come but persevere through it with hope and even joy!

About Jeannie

Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.

About Shiela

Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.

Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.


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Show Transcript:

Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast that is all things Charlotte Mason and her tried and true philosophy of education designed to help you homeschool with more confidence, joy and success. It is our hope that you'll find golden nuggets that will transform the way you think and the way you homeschool. I'm your host, author of the bestselling Charlotte Mason science curriculum, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today.

Jeannie Fulbright Here's a riddle for you parents: Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins helps you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/Homeschool. That's TuttleTwins.com/Homeschool. And now on to today's show.

Jeannie Fulbright Today you have both Shiela and Jeannie to share with you on overcoming or traveling through life's challenges while you are homeschooling and really just what it's like to deal with difficulties while you're homeschooling. Shiela and I both have stuff that we had to pray each other through and that we were both experiencing all, you know, all the little rocks in our path through our homeschool journey, which, you know, it's a long journey. So of course you're going to have struggles, you're going to have difficulties, you're going to have obstacles, and that's part of life. And I want to start, actually... Well, let me just ask Shiela to say, "Hey."

Shiela Catanzarite Hello. Hey, Jeannie, it's good to see you again.

Jeannie Fulbright I love seeing you. Wish we could see each other in person, we never see each other in person anymore, even though we live really close together, but we gotta make time to do that. Okay, I want to start by reading you something that really powerfully impacted me and I would say transformed me when I was in college. I was not a Christian when I read this, but this book that I read actually brought me on the journey towards Christ. And it was written by a man who is a Christian, but I wouldn't say he's an evangelical Christian or anything. The book is called The Road Less Traveled, and the author is M. Scott Peck, and when I read the first words of this book, I was flabbergasted. And as Christians, you probably know this, but I think it's really important that we talk, that we start off with this truth because it will lead us into understanding how we can truly endure victoriously the struggles that we face. And so this is, I'm going to skip around a little bit on the first few pages, that just stuff that I think is important. So it starts out, "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult, because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters." He talks about... I found this really powerful because I thought, why do we struggle with this truth that life is difficult? He goes on to say, "Most do not fully see this truth, that life is difficult. Instead, they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties, as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy." And that powerfully... That just hit me. I thought, yes, the reason we struggle so much when life is difficult is because we have in our mind this, sort of this belief, that life is generally easy and suddenly we're faced with the difficulty. How can we be facing this difficulty when we want to have this easy life? But the fact is life is difficult and life is a... M. Scott Peck goes on to say, "Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?" He says, "What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one. Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair. These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equaling the very worst kind of physical pain." And he says that, "It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'those things that hurt, instruct.'" And M. Scott Peck goes on to say, "It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread, but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems. Most of us are not so wise." And that is so true. I was floored by that because I had gone through my whole life believing that my life was supposed to be easy. And every time something came, every hardship that happened, felt like it wasn't supposed to happen. It felt like this is not supposed to happen, it's not supposed to be like this. And the very first Bible verse I heard, this same year that I read that book and those words, was from a man who would later become my husband. He read to me the verse from James, which is, and we've all heard this verse, and it was the first Bible verse I'd ever heard in my entire life, and he said, "Consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." And I would say that's a beautiful verse and it makes perfect sense, but it's really hard to live it. It's hard to consider it joy when you face trials of many kind.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes, because God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life, right? That's what we've been taught and he does, but in that, there's a part missing that I think in our hearts is really hard to embrace as a Christian with a loving God and a kind God and a generous God and a gracious God. It's really difficult for us to marry that a loving, kind, and gracious, generous God would allow us to feel pain. I know for me that is still very difficult to marry those together, but it's the way that it is on earth. Life on earth is that way and I'm so grateful we have God's Word to remind us, Jeannie, that's such a powerful truth. And when you were reading that, I was thinking about a different translation, "And let it have its perfect result. Let trials have the perfect result that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Let these trials have their result. There's something on our part that we have to do: we have to surrender and let God do his work. We have to surrender, trusting that he is good and he's working something good, even though it doesn't feel that way.

Jeannie Fulbright That is so true. I remember fully embracing this verse and believing it so much. This is true. This is true. All the things we struggle with, this is our opportunity to grow and mature in our faith. But then I remember one time I was talking to a friend on the phone, and she was really struggling with her mother-in-law, and I had such good, wise counsel for her. I said, "You know what? This is God's... This is your opportunity to grow in your faith. This is your challenge. This is your obstacle. This is your struggle. This is your chance to consider it pure joy that you're struggling with your mother-in-law." And just gave her all the advice about how to embrace this challenge and just follow God in his teaching in how she responds to her mother-in-law, who was a very harsh woman. She just, it was her culture to be that way. And then, I remember, a few months later, I was struggling and I know, those of you who've heard my marriage podcast, I was struggling with my husband. And I remember my friend then turning the tables and telling me that this was my challenge, this was my obstacle. And for me, I thought, no, this is too hard. This obstacle’s too hard. This can't be from God. This can't be. God can't be allowing this. Just for some reason, it was really hard for me to accept the obstacles and challenges that God put in my path. But I could easily help you figure out how to handle your obstacles. But mine were too hard. They were too hard. So, it's just, it really is a matter of a mindset. Getting, allowing, making yourself believe, this is from God. Maybe God didn't want that. God didn't want me and my husband to have a difficult marriage. And yes, I do believe the enemy was involved in all of that, but God allowed it because he allows these trials in our lives to grow us and to mature us. And just like it says in James 1, in Romans 5, Paul says, "And we boast in a hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." And God promises not to disappoint our hope. And so, we need to just maintain our hope through the struggle, maintain our hope through the pain, and the most important thing that we do as homeschool parents, as parents at all, is to help our children to know how to persevere through suffering.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes and I think, Jeannie, that's a gift of homeschooling that maybe we don't initially think of it as a gift because we're with our children all day long, mostly, and they're watching us go through these trials, whether they're going through a trial or we ourselves are going through a trial, our spouse is going through a trial, an extended family member... They are not off at school all day while we have 6 or 7 hours to work through everything and get ourselves together before they walk in the door. They're with us when we get the phone call. They're with us when we get the news, and it's such an incredible opportunity to model for our children how to believe God and how to trust God when you get that news. And I did not do that well during our first unemployment shock, which I've shared about in other podcasts, it was just... I did not model well for my daughters what it looked like to believe God because I was shocked that God would allow that to happen. It's like, "We have been faithful. We have given faithfully through the years. We have been... My husband's the most..." And I had all of these reasons why God shouldn't have allowed that to happen. "How could this have happened?" And I doubted God. I doubted God, I was fearful, I was angry, and I thought, Lord, I just cannot believe you would allow this. And my advice would be, as a homeschool mom, to anticipate that your children are going to watch you face some painful, unexpected news. More than likely, probably more than once, your children are going to be home with you when you get some news that is painful. And if you think about that as an opportunity, not only for me to lean in to what I know God says about trials, lean into the hope of that proven character on the other side, not only for our own growth, but let our children see our faith on display. It's easy to talk about the Lord in the devotion. It's easy when things are great, but when it's hard, that is when our faith is tested. And I wanted to share a passage that God used in my life on several times through trials just to remind me to be joyful. And this is coming out of 1 Peter 1. He says, "So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while." Only for a little while. "These trials will show, they will reveal that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold. Though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Christ Jesus is revealed to the whole world." And I remember God using that passage, and I just remember pouring through that thinking, "be truly glad." I'm like, "What? Be glad?" You know, there's wonderful joy ahead. It doesn't feel joyful in the moment.

Jeannie Fulbright It doesn't.

Shiela Catanzarite Even though you must endure it for a little while and it says, there's another place in the New Testament where it says that our trials are temporary, that you can't compare them to the glory that is to be revealed. They're small, they're light momentary affliction — I think, is the translation I'm thinking of — the light momentary affliction can't compare to the weight of glory that's to be revealed. So God is putting it in perspective and it's for a little while, it's light, be joyful, it's purifying your faith and it's being tested like gold with fire. So I think He's acknowledging that it's going to be painful but it's not going to last forever and it's worth what's on the other side. It's so difficult when we feel the pain, when we feel the stress and the weight of the trial. The feeling of it is really painful, so it's so important that during those times, we're remembering what God's Word has told us: this isn't going to last, and they never do last, do they? They feel in the moment, so overwhelming. And I know for me, I have a tendency to just catastrophize things. I've grown in that a lot, but I feel like, "Oh my goodness, what's going to happen in this?" And just going down all these terrible possible outcomes and just coming back to saying, "No, God has already spoken about what's going to happen. It's not going to last forever. It's for a little while, and it's actually producing something good in your life."

Jeannie Fulbright And sometimes the trial is a permanent one. It is a permanent situation, but even in that, we'll have our moments of catastrophizing, then we'll have our moments of transcending, of rising above them, just allowing the glory of God to be the most... the essence of who we are; just allowing him to be glorified in our suffering, in our trial. An example of that is, my son, who had very severe learning challenges as a young child; it took him a very long time to learn to read, and he struggled with a lot of processing issues and ADHD and dyslexia, dysgraphia, all of those things. And at first, you know, you don't know your child has a learning disability. You just think, I don't know why he's not getting this. I mean, my other children got it. And then as soon as his younger sibling just started passing over him in learning, I realized, okay, I think I think we have a problem here. And then we had to learn to face it, then we had to learn to diagnose it and I didn't take him anywhere to get diagnosed but I looked at all the signs, I did all the research and I knew the main things he had. The processing stuff we didn't learn until we actually did get him diagnosed in high school in order to get him extra time on his SATs and ACTs, and also extra time in college for taking tests and all the accommodations they have in college. But when he was younger, it was really a challenge for him because he's brilliant; he is absolutely, probably one of the smartest, most intelligent, brilliant people I know but he had these challenges learning in the way that the common person does and it was really hard on his soul. And the one thing I kept telling him is, "This is God's plan for you, and you are going to have to learn to work harder than everybody else in order to get where they can get more easily." One of my husband's favorite phrases that he always says, and we've all found this to be true, which is, "Hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work hard." And usually talent doesn't work hard, but we just really tried to get him to understand and I think that was the only thing that really helped him to not feel discouraged is to trust that God made me this way. He made me this way for a purpose. Now that he's, you know, 28 years old, we can see how because of the way his brain thinks, he can visualize really complicated things in the computer world, the AI technology and all this... he can visualize things that if he didn't have the kind of brain that he has, that he couldn't do. He had to work harder through college, he had to work harder through high school, he had to work harder, but that also taught him perseverance that I don't think any of my other children have that level of dedication and perseverance and willingness to take something that they literally have no knowledge of and become a master at it. So he still he still has his learning challenges, that's a lifelong thing; ADHD is a lifelong thing, but he has learned to walk above the problem and allow the problem to be part of the character; God built that character in him, perseverance, and it did create the character of this really, really diligent person who will never be unemployed, God willing. So I just, you know, I just see this is giving him as a young child, just this hope for the future, that hope that won't disappoint. There is hope in what God is allowing you to face. This is a challenge but God is going to do something in this; he's going to create something through you that could never be created if you didn't have the learning challenges.

Shiela Catanzarite It's so true. I just saw this with our older daughter, the same thing, Jeannie, and I think it's important. I just want to encourage everyone listening that we may look at our children, or one of our children, and say, "they're struggling in a different way" or "they're different" and "is there something wrong?" And we just have to keep in mind that God has created our children perfectly, exactly the way that he wants them to be, and he is using these things that may seem a bit out of the ordinary, out of the normal, because he has a plan for their life and they need that. And just like your son, our older daughter, she's very, very intense, always from the time she came into the world. She's intense, extremely curious, extremely driven and motivated and always wanted to be a doctor and just has this bleeding heart of compassion and she struggled a lot with anxiety. I was talking with her about this yesterday because we were talking about doing the podcast, and I was asking her, "What do you remember about the hardships?" And she said, "Oh, mom, what I remember is just the anxiety that I had being a high achiever." She had a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear and struggles and because of this intensity that she had and her personality type, it was very difficult. And as a mom, like you said, it's not anything I could take from her. I could sit with her and say, "okay, it's okay." And I would pray with her, "You don't have to be anxious, there's nothing to be afraid of." I could say everything, but in what she was experiencing, I couldn't take that from her and it was difficult. And even though she was achieving at the highest level, I mean, people would say, "Wow, it's so amazing", people don't see the struggle going on underneath, behind all that and how hard and difficult it was for her and still working through all that. But that intensity just drove her to have this approach to life that everything just was so big and huge, and so the struggles were big and huge. It was a lot of late nights with her just listening, never able to take it from her, but just trying to listen, praying with her, but like you said, never seeing it fully go away. Well, it was really interesting because she's in her third year of medical school and she was writing her essay for her rotation, so she sent it to me for an edit, "Mom, will you edit my essay?" and it was so interesting in the essay, she wrote a paragraph about, "I'm intense." That was her big thing. "I've always been known as being intense. I hated it my whole life. I hated being intense and people thought I was too much. And I was always... I struggle because I felt like I overwhelm people," but then she said, "but I realize it's my intensity that's giving me this love of being able to be in surgery for these hours and be fully focused and fully engaged and fully enthralled with surgery on the brain, in the head." So she actually, in the essay... I didn't know she felt that way, and it was like, oh, wow, look how God has used this. She used the one quality that she hated about herself as the quality that she felt like had enabled her to have the opportunity to become a doctor and this was the quality that was qualifying her to be able to do this research and choose this field of medicine. It was so interesting because it just came full circle and for so long I just wanted to take the struggle from her but to see her come to a place of realizing, like your son, that this is the very thing that God put in me that is enabling me to fulfill his call on my life. You have to have that level intensity for what she wants to do in the specialization that she's doing and it was such an exciting moment for me as a mom to read that and think, wow, God had a purpose all along. So I just want to encourage everyone listening that God made your child with every... He intricately created them and he has different purposes for maybe what they struggle in, or something that seems a little different and not in the mainstream of your other children. Lean into that and help your child to accept that and celebrate that. Pray with your child if it's difficult for them but remind them God has a purpose for that, and he's going to use that in your future to help you accomplish the plan that he has for you. And so I just want to encourage that and that's really exciting to hear, Jeannie, and we know what we went through. We prayed for each other's children. We prayed for each other's children through the —

Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, I would say the main prayers that I was calling you up and asking you to pray or texting you, when texting became a thing, was for my eldest daughter's ballet career.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes, I remember.

Jeannie Fulbright Goodness, talk about trials and tribulations. And sometimes with trials and tribulations that your children are facing, it's really hard to see what God's purpose is in it. It's just... there is no like, light at the end of the tunnel. And my daughter was determined by the time she was ten years old to be a prima ballerina for either ABC, which is the American Ballet Company or there was San Francisco Ballet or there were like four ballet companies that she was wanting to be in and it was either those or broke. She had to be dancing for one of those companies. She was so intense into ballet and talk about intense, the way that Shiela's daughter was intense about her academics, my daughter was intense about ballet. She could not miss ballet; she could not go on family vacations because of ballet. She would have a meltdown and it was really sad. There was nothing I could do about it. We started going on vacation without my eldest daughter because she was so obsessed with being the best ballerina, and she didn't want to miss, she didn't want to get below anybody else, she wanted to continue to be better and better. And every summer she went away for the entire summer, well, almost the entire summer, to dance at either San Francisco Ballet or Houston Ballet or some other ballet company in the country. And that was all she cared about. It was really, literally all she cared about. It was all she obsessed about. And she got, as does happen when someone is intensely into some sport, she got injuries and her injuries were really, really bad. She had these bone spurs in her Achilles, both of her Achilles tendons had bone spurs in them. She was in so much pain. She could dance through pain. There was one time she had Mersa on her big toe, and she was still dancing point on her big toe through that pain. But she couldn't dance: her ankles were swelling and she would she would constantly sprain them because of these bone spurs and it was torture for her. There was nothing I could do; there was nothing I could do for her except for take her... And she had surgery, and then she was out of ballet through these surgeries and she was miserable. And I didn't understand why God was allowing this to happen to her, why God was allowing her, the thing that she wanted the most, for her not to be able to fulfill it, and for her not to have everything she needed to be able to do what she wanted to do. I just felt like this is her dream; this is the desire of her heart. Why is God not giving this to her? And we just had to persevere through it. We persevered all the way through, from the time she started struggling, probably around 13 or 14 until she was 17, and God changed her heart and turned her direction. But through all those years, it was just being in pain with her and just praying her through it and trying to help her to accept... she couldn't accept what was. She didn't want to accept that this was her life, that this is a possibility, that she might not be a ballerina. She couldn't accept that; that was an impossibility to her. And it was really hard. Sometimes it's really hard as a mom that you have to just sit there with your child and suffer with them even though you want to tell them, "Hey, let's see what God has and let's just accept whatever God's will is for your life. And it may not be ballet." And you just can't say that because she was not going to accept that. She was not in a place for years and years and years to accept that. So as a mom, I was struggling and in pain along with her through all of that and through all of the auditions and through all of the competitions and everything that she went to. And if she didn't reach her goal — and there were many times that she didn't — it was tragic. It was really, really hard. Those were some hard years. But we look back on it and we can see now what God grew in her and how God taught her: he taught her perseverance; he taught her how to accept life the way it was when things weren't working out the way... She can look back and see, oh, I thought because I wanted this, this was going to happen. She learned that she wasn't pliable, she wasn't moldable by God because she had set her direction and she wasn't going to allow anything, especially... well, nobody, to take her off that direction. She especially couldn't accept that God wouldn't want her to go that direction. So I think it's hard because we can try to give our children spiritual insight and wisdom and sometimes they're going to have to go through the hardship. They're going to have to go through this hard thing. We're going to have to walk through it with them; we're going to have to walk through the tears every day, tears and crying or whatever it is. It's part of just the suffering that we moms have to struggle through. I remember once reading this verse that just brought me so much comfort. I can't remember exactly where the verse is, but it talks about how the Lord gently leads those who have young. And I remember feeling just so guilty and just always feeling like I'm not doing this right. I don't know what I'm doing. Here's the verse, it's Isaiah 40:11: "He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. He gently leads those that have young." And I realized that as we're homeschool moms, we have so much on us. We have so many burdens but we have to remember that God is not harsh with us. He is gently leading us as we lead our young, as we have our young gathered around. So as we're trying to raise these children in the Lord, just trying to help them to understand this world and trying to help them to persevere, we fail so many times, and then we feel guilty and then we feel this condemnation. God does not condemn us; he is gently leading us. You homeschool moms: God is gently leading you because you have young and he cares for you and he knows how hard this is and he knows that you're struggling. He knows that you're going through many things and he is gentle with you. And for me, that was really helpful because I had so much burden and guilt on me about just not doing things right, not doing them well, not knowing if what the choices I was making were the right choices. So it's nice to know that God is, has compassion on us, that he has a special compassion for mothers.

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Shiela Catanzarite And knowing that even when our children are going through a trial, it's a trial for us, too. And God is building our trust in him. I mean, I feel like it's easy. It's not easy, but it's easier when we are going through it because we can make a choice to believe God. We can choose our attitude, but it's much more difficult: you can't choose that for your child. So it's more difficult to watch them go through it. And you're praying they're learning what God wants them to learn and you're praying they'll be released, but you have to trust that God is going to do that in his time. We have to believe what we can't see and what we can't control in our children. It's so painful but it goes back to even as we think for ourselves, okay, God is maturing me through this trial; God is purifying my faith; God is building my character — he is doing that for our children. Just remember, your children are going to go through trials. They are going to go through hardships, so you need to prepare... Like you were reading at the beginning, Jeannie, from the book. When you're homeschooling, you're with them all day long. Everyone being together, someone's going through something difficult. Just be prepared. Just say, "You know what? We're going to be drawing near." The homeschool years are going to be times of drawing near to God because someone's going to be going through something. "We're going to draw near to God together. We're going to pray for each other. We're going to pray together. We're going to encourage each other. We're going to bless each other." If you kind of go into it with that mindset that, "Okay, this is a fun adventure and we're going to do a lot of fun things. We're going to plan for that, but there's going to be hardship and we're going to plan for that, as well." And so Jeannie, one of the things I want to ask you about, or maybe talk about is — because you were really good at this — helping your children be independent in their learning, because I remember when your dad was passing... you had to leave town. I remember praying for you, you had to fly out a lot. How did you handle a trial that took you out of the home in the middle of your homeschooling? And how did you keep the homeschooling going when you were not there?

Jeannie Fulbright So that was something that I prepared early because of the Charlotte Mason model and how she believes self-education is the only authentic education. And so for me, once my children had learned to read, it was really important for me that they didn't need me to explain how to do anything to them, if the instructions were there. They should be able to read the instructions; they should be able to figure things out for themselves. If I purchased a curriculum that required me that was not a Charlotte Mason friendly curriculum. Any curriculum that required me, that my children cannot continue learning without me there, Charlotte Mason doesn't believe the teacher is the guide. She provides the feast and the children, they... we're not spoon feeding our children past the age... When they're in elementary school, are we still putting bites of food in their mouth? Well, it's the same with education: our children should be able to consume education for themselves. So I would say there were some things that when my dad got sick, and he was given a very short time period to live and he got on hospice, it was just really hard on me. There were so many things going on. First of all, I had the Zoology 3 book due, and it had already been advertised when it was going to be due and I hadn't finished writing it, so I was continuing to have to write that. I was emotionally distraught, and then I had... I won't go into any of this because it's irrelevant, but there was a lot of family trauma going on surrounding my dad with siblings and half siblings, and it was like phone calls every day and people yelling at each other and people upset and it was all kinds of horrible stuff going on. Then I was having to fly to Texas from Georgia constantly to help my mom, to see my dad, and he was losing his... it wasn't dementia, but it was a cancer caused memory loss situation that was going on, it was sort of like a sepsis. But he had so many problems, but he lingered for a really long time. He was given eight weeks and he lasted eight months, which we're grateful for that time, but during that time, it was really hard for everybody.

Shiela Catanzarite I remember that.

Jeannie Fulbright And so, some of the things had to drop. I'll tell you, one of the things that encouraged me is early in my homeschool years, I read a book and I think it was by Michael Smith of HSLDA. I'm not 100% sure. I will try to find it and put it in the show notes, if I can remember. But in the book, he talked about there was a year when his mother or father was really sick and they were really close to his family, and he had, I don't know, six children at this time. I guess where they lived in Virginia, they were required to take standardized tests every year, but they literally stopped homeschooling. They did not do anything. The children just read as they wanted to read and just did what they wanted to do, what they could do, but mom and dad just were not focusing on school. They were constantly taking their parent to doctor's appointments and dealing with hospital visits and it was this constant, constant issues. And so for the whole year, he didn't homeschool his children at all; they just did whatever they could or wanted to do. And at the end of the year, they did the standardized tests, and they were all a full year ahead of where they were the year before. They hadn't done a single thing. And so I took a lot of comfort in that and I know I've told y'all the story about when my daughter began to hate school because I let her take some outside classes, and I wouldn't let her do school for a whole year after that. She insists that she used to sneak math worksheets and, you know, do math on the sly. Like, I don't know if you really did math on the sly, but she jumped ahead two years when she went back to doing academic work. So, I just feel like, if you are going through a hard time — and it's a temporary thing, I wouldn't say this is how you should always do things — you are free to set aside the academics and they will still continue to advance. They will still continue to learn. But it's also important that your children have some autonomy over what they're learning: that not every subject is a family subject; some subjects that they can do on their own. Or if it is a family morning time subject, that you have children that can help facilitate that, that they can take up the reins of, "Okay, I'm going to do the read aloud for the family today, Mom," or whatever it is, you allow the children to sort of take over the reins of getting... When you are dealing with a tragedy or some sort of a really big issue, your children need to learn to be independent. One of the things that really helped me learn about how important independence was, was when I realized that my oldest son did have the learning challenges, I decided to be his own special education teacher. I had all these materials to help him learn all these things that we were doing to try to help him overcome some of these issues, so I needed the other kids that could read to do their work on their own and there was some curriculum that I loved, but it required too much of me. And so, I had to... Like, we were doing Saxon Math. We loved Saxon Math, but it required a teacher, so we had to change up our curriculum so that my children could do the work on their own while I was helping my son sort of just get the basics of reading, which actually wasn't very successful. But all of that learning to be independent learners, learning to take school in their own hands. I had the little charts, everybody knew exactly what subjects they needed to cover. They knew where those books were, they knew what they needed to do, and they would just pick it up and do it on their own, so that was really helpful during times when I was dealing with my father's impending death, traveling to Texas all the time. In addition to that, traveling to conferences, speaking to homeschoolers, trying to write the Zoology 3 book. There was just a lot going on but the independent learning was a really important part of that. And I would say I really struggled with that same hearkening back to when I read that quote from M. Scott Peck about, "Why does this have to be so hard? Why do I have to deal with this hardship? This is too hard." And realizing, okay, no, this is the trial God has for me right now. And it's hard, it's really hard. I don't know if I'm going to be able to do all of this or do it well, but I had to give myself grace and I had to say, "It's okay. We're not going to do everything perfectly. I'm not going to be the best mom right now. I'm going to apologize to my children a lot over the next year." That's just kind of how it pans out, but in the end, you look back and you do see the growth, the maturity that happened through the hardships that you went through. It's hard to see them right when you're going through them, but when you look... sometimes it takes years to see what God was doing through a trial, but you just have to trust that even in the little trials that you have... I mean, there's also the daily trials. We're talking about big things, but there's just the daily trials of having a conflict with another homeschool mom or your children having conflicts with their friends. And these daily trials, these are the things that we want to, as much as possible, remember: God is going to use this very little small issue that we're dealing with to mature us. And so I want to consider it pure joy. I want to glory in this suffering, I want to accept that maybe they gossiped about me and I found out and I'm horrified and upset. And then I think, okay, no, Lord, I'm going to thank you for this trial, and Lord, I just ask you to make me mature and complete. Let me learn this lesson that you want me to learn through this. Whatever happened here, there's a lesson for me, and I need, Lord, you to show me what that lesson is, because I don't want to go through any trial and let that trial be wasted. Because I always found over and over again that if I didn't learn from the trial that God gave me, that I was going to have the same trial again and again and again until I did learn. So the important thing is just to ask the Lord, "What do you want me to learn here? What is it that we need to learn? What growth do you want us to have in our character through this? How can we grow spiritually through this experience?"

Shiela Catanzarite Yeah, that's good, Jeannie, and I think going back to the mindset that we are about growth and maturity because that's what God is doing. So we know life on earth, the trials of hardships, are for the purpose of proving character and proven faith which brings hope. And so if we go into this mindset, we don't want our homeschooling to feel like a trial because homeschooling is a joy. It is such a joy, but there will be trials in our homeschooling. So if we can have the mindset that, okay, there are going to be hard days, there are going to be, but we're going to grow through them. We're going to learn more about who God is, we're going to see God show up in his faithfulness, we're going to go to His Word and find promises that we've never seen before we went through this. There's so much opportunity in that, and just going back to the whole idea that homeschooling is about a life of freedom. We are going to have the freedom to respond to whatever trial comes our way in the way that's best. Like you did Jeannie, your family needed you. So, you're a homeschool mom. You had to leave your children because someone else needed you. You were important to your family, so you had to leave. That's okay. That's okay. You're still there, but there was a time... So the beauty of homeschooling, well, we have the freedom then to adjust our homeschool. "Mom needs to be with her family. She needs to be with her dad. We're going to adjust our homeschool to this season when mom's away." I know when I had to go to work, I was just devastated. You know, the girls are in high school and Caroline was... I had to go to work when my husband lost his job. We had nine jobs between the two of us, like in two... I can't remember what year it was. In one year we had nine jobs just trying to piece everything together. I had to leave the home and I had to go to work. Luckily, I went to a tutoring center and I know a lot of people work now, but Jeannie, back when we were homeschooling, there were not very many working homeschool moms. I never saw you as working; you were writing and creating. I know it was a lot of work, but I never saw that. I had to leave and go to a tutoring center, and I was so resentful, at first. I was just resentful, like, "Lord, my children need me. They're in high school. Why do I have to leave the home in these last years?" But I surrendered to it. Our younger daughter, Caroline, ended up going to the tutoring center with me and working with me. We had so much fun. It was such an incredible opportunity for her. So, the trial that we went through, my trial of having to work outside the home, they hired her. She went with me every time. She made money, she learned a lot, she worked with these kids, she was able to write some of her scholarship essays on it. So we had that special bond together because of that trial, but also, I look now at what I'm doing — writing curriculum now and and of course, my degrees were in education, but I hadn't taught other than homeschooling, formally. Now I teach classes. I have 30 students who I teach now, every week, four days a week that come to my class and just so many opportunities, and all of that, that whole business that I have teaching my students all started from the tutoring. And then when I started teaching, Jeannie, you're like, "Will you write curriculum about... you know..."

Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, nobody more qualified than you to write language arts curriculum.

Shiela Catanzarite Because I've been at it for so long but that all came from the trial of my husband losing his job. So looking back now, I can see that God was preparing my future opportunity through the job loss that forced me to go outside of the home to work. And so, again, I was just not good at just, "Oh, we have a trial. Thank you, Lord. Isn't this wonderful?" I'm like, "What? No!" But I can see now even in my own life. But the flexibility... If you approach your homeschool with, "Hey, we're going to live life and there are going to be trials, and there's going to be times when we don't feel the weight, and there will be times when we do feel it, but it's a long arc, the homeschooling and we're together for many, many years. We're going to get everything. If we have to take a year off, that's okay. We'll pick it back up the next year." So don't stress over trying to do school at home and just have every single lesson in every book and every curriculum. If you bought a year curriculum in something, take two years to finish it. Don't do all of the chapters. Be free and be flexible and live life and a lot of the trials.. remember that we're educating people. We don't want to become so rigid and so stressed that we're not loving people, we're not relating well and building bonds and relationships. So just remember, going back to the freedom that homeschooling gives, let's walk through the hardship in a way that is life giving for everyone. If that means putting aside our homeschool lessons for months or readjusting or immersing in one topic for three months while we get through going to see the grandparents or trying to accommodate a parent living in our home. Take time to immerse in a topic. Read some books that have been on the shelf. There's so many ways that you can shift to accommodate hardship and it goes back to the beauty and the freedom of the homeschooling lifestyle.

Jeannie Fulbright Yes, absolutely. I think having the mindset that yes, life is hard. Life is difficult. You're going to face a trial probably every week, whether it be a tiny one or a big one, but just facing it with the, "Okay, Lord. What is it that you... What do we do about this? How do we solve this problem? How do we overcome this situation?" And having our children be part of that dialog, part of that dialog with God, like, "Okay, this is challenging." I remember when my daughter was going to ballet every morning. She had to be there at ten, so we left our house at nine and I picked her up at nine at night. So she was gone for 12 hours a day throughout her entire high school years and some of her middle school years. But, I remember she was really struggling with algebra, and she was crying because she cared... She wanted to be great at everything she did so she even cared about academics. So she was just, "I don't understand it, I don't understand it." She was crying and I wasn't there; I couldn't go in the middle of the day to help her with algebra because I was homeschooling my younger children. So I just said, "Okay, we just need to take this... This is not too big for God. Nothing's too big for God. This is a small problem compared to everything that God can handle in our lives." And so on the way to ballet, that whole day, we just prayed for the entire ride, all the way that God would give her wisdom, that he would help her to understand this algebra, that he would find a solution for this, whether we needed to get a tutor, or whether... Whatever it was, that God would bring the solution, that he would solve this, and that we would just give this into his hands, cast our anxieties onto him, and allow him to take control and take care of it. And then that day, she called me up. She was like, "Mom, I opened the algebra book and I started reading the problem and it just clicked, and it was a miracle. It just made sense." And that's how God solves problems. Sometimes we tend to wait and try to solve all our problems in the normal way and then we're defeated and we go to God. But really, if we make it a habit to go to God first, then a lot of times we won't have to go through all of that research and that anxiety and all the problems that we brought upon our lives trying to solve a problem because God already had a solution, and he's done that over and over and over in my life. He wants us to take every little and big thing to him to solve and he will. A lot of times he'll solve it by changing our hearts. That was one thing that you and I prayed for, for my oldest daughter. First, we were praying that she would do well in this competition or get this part, you know, all of these things. But then we just started praying, Lord, I just pray that you would show her what your plan is for her life and you would make her want that, that she would align her will to your will. And it took years. We prayed that for years.

Shiela Catanzarite I remember, and then she ended up... She was never going to go to college and she was going to be a ballerina, which was great and fine, and then I remember when her heart began to change and praying through that.

Jeannie Fulbright I saw the progression because she was living in Houston, her 10th grade year, she lived in Houston at the Houston Ballet, and she just started noticing how unhappy the prima ballerinas were. She said, "They just don't seem happy. They're 35 years old, and they're being yelled at by their ballet master still." She's like, "I can't imagine you allowing somebody to yell at you every day." And so God just kind of gave her some insights into the lifestyle and she was in San Francisco that summer and God just opened up some more wisdom to her. Sometimes we just have to persevere in prayer for our children.

Shiela Catanzarite And God was doing that. That wasn't something you were telling her, that was something God was telling her. So the lasting change, all of our great wisdom and counsel, God has to do the work in our children. He can use us, but oftentimes they come to it on their own, despite us. We got to lean in to praying for them. And that's another thing, Jeannie, I want to emphasize — just prayer and having a really tight knit community, because you and I did pray a lot together, and we still pray for each other and our children. Having a community is so important. One of my strongest communities I've ever had in my life was during the homeschooling years. I had several communities through the different seasons, but it's so important to have that because there will be times when you need to call and pray with a friend, or you need to drop your children off with someone. I mean, I remember that — people dropping their children off with me when they had surgery. I had seven surgeries and most of them were when the girls were little and they weren't major but still just having someone watch the girls or, you know, bringing meals to each other. We were just there for each other. We knew that, okay, if something happens, we're going to be there. Someone's going to be there, we'll be there for each other. And that always just brought a lot of confidence and just the practical help. But just the prayer support and the encouragement... "You're going to get through this. God is going to work this out." Encouraging one another, praying for each other, serving in tangible ways. If you have your group, just know you're not going to go through it alone. You're not going to go through the trials alone while you're homeschooling, so be encouraged. There are many resources. There are many means of grace. Of course, God gives us our faith; he gives us His Word, and those are first; he gives us the encouragement of other believers, our church body, our homeschool community, our homeschool friends; he gives us the Holy Spirit; he gives us so many resources that are available for us when we're going through these hard times, and so I encourage you to just be hopeful that even when you go through it, you're not going through it alone. If you build a good community and you commit, hey, we're going to walk with each other through this and be there, you will have more support than what you can ever imagine. And I'm so grateful, Jeannie — We had that in our big, huge homeschool group and in our little things that we did with each other, we always prayed and we always served, and I'm so grateful for that. I'm sure many people have that. I didn't have that with my church as much. I had it with our homeschool group even more than our church.

Jeannie Fulbright Same here. Yes, it was such a blessing to have so many different personalities because everybody brings their own ministry, the way they minister, to the table, whether it's through encouraging words, whether it's through prayer, whether it's through service, whether it's through... There's just so many different ways that God uses that community. And if you are struggling and you don't have a community, really just begin praying. God does not want you to be doing this alone, and he will bring a community to you in some way. Part of our responsibility is making the time to nurture those relationships and nurture those communities, which means that we have to put down the things, you know, get off the computer and go and meet our friends. We were always going to park day every week; there was the evening moms chats that we had when all the moms got together and shared their hearts. There were so many different ways that we got together... All the field trips, but it was really important for us to actually show up for those.

Shiela Catanzarite Right, yeah, we didn't have all the social media stuff, Jeannie, but I look at now the Charlotte Mason Christian Homeschooler Facebook group... If you all are not in that, it's incredible. There are 20,800 people, I think right now in that group, and it's constant encouragement. The moms are showing up with so many words of encouragement through the Facebook group. That's just a phenomenal group. Even listening to this podcast, I know I listen to podcasts every single day. There's certain people I follow to keep me encouraged and inspired at this season in my life, but the podcast is a place to go for encouragement and newsletters... There's just a lot of things electronically, technologically that we didn't have. But like you said, nothing beats just showing up in person for coffee and being together in person. So I encourage you, like Jeannie, you were saying to make sure because it is easy to connect online, it's a great thing that we have, but the one on one, face to face definitely is far superior. So make time for that for sure. And the conventions... Go to the homeschool conventions. I wouldn't have been able to do homeschooling without that because there was a lot of encouragement when you were feeling heavy and like, I don't know if I could do it, I need inspiration. That was just a welcome, relief, and shot in the arm of inspiration.

Jeannie Fulbright It's such a joy to just show up at a convention that everybody that's there is doing what you're doing. It's like, "These are my people," you know? It is so fun. I'm missing homeschool conventions this year. This year I'm taking a production year and I'm creating curriculum and things that I think are really going to be such a blessing. So I can't go to conventions this year, but I will be back next year, so.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes, yes, yes.

Jeannie Fulbright Well, Shiela, thank you for joining me today, talking about hardships and trials. I just want you all to be encouraged that God is going to get you through it, and truly, prayer is more powerful than anything. God gave us this huge gift in prayer, and he really wants us to come to him when we're weary and heavy laden, and he wants to take our trials from us, and he wants to solve all of our concerns for us. So he is there for you.

Shiela Catanzarite Yes.

Jeannie Fulbright Is there anything worse than spending a lot of money on something you are unhappy with and feeling like you're stuck with it? Well, I do have good news for you. You've probably heard me talking about our sponsor for our podcast, Medi-Share. Members of Medi-Share save up to 50% or more per month on their healthcare costs. They say the typical family saves up to $500 per month. And here's the best part: you can become a member at any time. So that means it isn't too late to switch to a more affordable healthcare option that will save you money and help you sleep better at night. If this is the first time you're hearing about Medi-Share, it's the best alternative to health insurance that allows Christians to share one another's medical bills, offers access to 900,000+ healthcare providers, and has a proven almost 30 year track record. Plus, in addition to saving hundreds per month, telehealth and tele behavioral counseling are included with membership. It literally takes two minutes to see how much you can save. To investigate this for you and your family, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare.

Jeannie Fulbright Hey, a couple more things: Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor? Someone to keep you focused on the things that matter--the Lord, His word, and prayer, and habit-training, and living books, nature study, and, of course, the most neglected thing of all, self-care? Well, I have the perfect mentor for you: the Charlotte Mason heirloom planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories. All the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, and learn about that and so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I have created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to the Charlotte Mason Show.

Jeannie Fulbright If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom, and let us know what you thought of today's episode. And don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare. You can trust to learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConvention.com/MediShare.

Jeannie Fulbright Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come. On my website I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well, and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Texas to find encouragement, friendship, and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website JeannieFulbright.com for your coupon code. And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say "hello" because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.

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